NEW YORK – Today, Meta announced it will reinstate former president Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, which could set a new precedent for how the social media company treats politicians and world leaders on its platforms. Trump’s accounts were shut down indefinitely following the U.S. Capitol siege of January 6, 2021, and several months later, in response to guidance from Facebook’s independent Oversight Board, the company announced that the ban would be enforced for two years. 

The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, executive director at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. 

“This is the right call—not because the former president has any right to be on the platform but because the public has an interest in hearing directly from candidates for political office. There are narrow circumstances in which social media platforms really have no choice but to take down political leaders’ posts—which is why we endorsed Meta’s decision to suspend Trump’s account when he used it to encourage violence. In most circumstances, though, it’s better if the major social media platforms err on the side of leaving speech up, even if the speech is offensive or false, so that it can be addressed by other users and other institutions.”

The following can be attributed to Katie Fallow, senior counsel at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. 

“Big tech platforms already exercise a huge amount of power over public discourse online. In general, we don’t want them also deciding which political leaders we hear from and which ones we don’t. Of course, Meta should closely monitor how Trump uses his accounts going forward. If Trump violates its policies, it should respond in a graduated way. Where feasible, it should label posts or limit their reach rather than take them down. It should rely on removal only as a last resort.”

In 2021, the Knight Institute submitted a public comment to the Facebook Oversight Board arguing that Facebook should “adopt a heavy presumption in favor of leaving political speech up,” but that Facebook itself should “commission an independent investigation into the ways in which its design decisions may have contributed to the events of January 6.”  Read the Knight Institute’s submission here

In 2017, the Knight Institute filed a lawsuit in federal court against then-President Trump and his aides for blocking seven people from the @realDonaldTrump Twitter account based on their criticism of his presidency and policies. The courts held that public officials who use their social media accounts in furtherance of their official duties have created public forums and cannot constitutionally block followers from these forums on the basis of viewpoint. Read about Knight v. Trump here.

For more information, contact: Lorraine Kenny, [email protected]